From the Orchestra Library

Yes, We are Geeks

Posted in Library Life,Library Supplies and Equipment by kschnack on July 1, 2011

Okay, so every now and then we orchestra librarians admittedly get a little obsessive about our workplace tools. And we know it sounds ridiculous to outsiders who suspect we are geeks and nerds anyway.  I doubt most people would find much interest in comparisons of pencils, pens, erasers, tape, paper, correction tape, paper cutters, copiers, archival music boxes, rolling shelving, music trunks and folders.

Or wind clips.

Perhaps only an orchestra librarian can feel true passion about a good wind clip. I know I do.

Our stage manager needed to acquire some more clips for our Vail residency where performances take place in the Gerald R. Ford Ampitheater – a covered outdoor venue at 8,000 feet above sea level. Except the covering isn’t 100% and the wind and rain are definitely an issue. And because we are taking 100+ players this time for Mahler Symphony No. 6, we have to have 200+ functioning wind clips at the minimum (percussionists and players on the outside rim of the stage often need more than 2 per stand).

So it was for this reason that we found ourselves explaining the relative merits and demerits of the various wind clip options before the purchase was made. In the past we have ordered custom-made clips of very high quality for reasons which will shortly become apparent. Commercially available (and less expensive) clips usually don’t measure up and actually can become an impediment to the well-being of both the music and the players.

The more we got into our “research” the more we giggled about what we consider truly important in our world. One has to laugh about the absurd, and besides that, I was trying really hard not to think about all the details on our three pops programs – fifty or more pieces – that wouldn’t be rehearsed before we left town and for which there was no turning back once we did.

Therefore, I bring you…….The Wind Clip.

Evolution of the 20th Century Wind Clip

The clip on the far left is a mid-20th century representation, origin unknown. Note the spring mechanism and shape of plastic. This clip still works well.

The next two clips from the left are representations of custom-made clips circa 1990’s. You will see that there is now a real spring (which can be either too tight or too loose) and the clear plastic is shaped to start further away from the wood, gradually ending in very close contact. This is the most crucial element of a good clip. The distance between the plastic and wood allows the clip to secure a stack of parts and still lie flat on the page, so the player can read through the clear plastic. Which is the whole point.

That being said, the 3rd clip from the left has TOO much of a gap between the plastic and the wood, and so, if the spring is not tight enough, slides around on the edge of the stand and is easily flung off mid-turn when in a hurry. The looser clips also end up on the floor during stage set-ups and moves, which wastes a huge amount of time all the way around.

However, this clip has one really good feature the others don’t – a shorter wooden section on the top which means a longer clear plastic section, and so more area through which one can read notes.

The last clip on the right is a commercially-purchased one, all plastic with a very tight clear top, and it’s terrible. You can see what happens in the next photo.

Bad Early 21st Century Wind Clip against Still Life of Orange and Christmas Tree

I don’t even know what else to say about that. Except don’t buy them!

Of our four featured clips today, I would have to go with the 2nd from the left. It’s not perfect, but it works the best overall, and when dealing with the music for 100+ stands and 200+ clips, it can be counted on to do what it’s supposed to do.

Good custom made wind clip doing its job!

And that, my friends, is your very important library lesson for the day. As I post this, the orchestra is rehearsing the very piece in the photo above. Complete with clips keeping music in place through a gentle Colorado breeze.


Make Room for the Music

Posted in Library Life,Library Supplies and Equipment by kschnack on September 3, 2010

That can't be a copier.....

Somehow it seemed appropriate to jump back into the blog at the end of a crazy summer with this particular photo. Because it pretty much illustrates how things have been here in North Texas for the past couple of months: 105+ degree temperatures for a bunch of days, no rain, and lots of music to prepare for the start of another season. A little slice of heaven!

This is our dear friend and colleague Shannon Highland,  librarian for the opera, whom you have met in a previous post. She comes over and helps us out in the summers, and for that we are very grateful. In the past couple of months she helped us slog through marking several new sets of standard rep for our Music Director’s upcoming programs, as well as handled numerous other projects. The photo shows her back at work in her own library, clearly trying to make do with a less-than-optimal setup. (Getting enough resources and equipment in our libraries to help us do our jobs properly is often very trying, and it’s rare that we are equipped well enough, being non-profits and all. It’s hard to convince managers that buying a piece of equipment isn’t throwing away money; often buying new equipment saves money over a bit of time.)

As you can see, there isn’t much room dedicated to the opera’s orchestra library which is in their rehearsal center —  a few tables, shared space with another worker and the percussion cage, and some kind of Mars robot sent in to gather data from the looks of it. Actually, that is the portable air conditioning unit the opera used to cool down its projectors during the Moby Dick premiere. It’s nice to see it was keeping Shannon from sweltering down there during the hottest days of the year. Preparing Don Giovanni has enough challenges without having to literally sweat it out.

It’s unfortunate that the new Winspear Opera House, part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, does not have a dedicated space for the opera librarian to work or storage for the orchestral and vocal materials. In other words, No Library. Instead, Shannon has to bring all the music over for productions and then claim one of the small studios as a temporary work space during the run of each opera. Why is it that millions of dollars can be spent on these spectacular performance venues and one of the most fundamental needs of the operation is just overlooked? Or, more to the point, why isn’t the priority of the Opera House actually producing Opera by the fine resident Opera Company?

Such  questions won’t be answered today for sure, but I do wish and hope for a time when the experienced workers are consulted before grand edifices are erected, and specs given by those professionals are followed during the design and building process. An Opera House without a place for The Music? Wow.

I hope you all have had a great summer and feel ready to start the new season with enthusiasm and energy. Now that the temps in Dallas have plunged to the low 90’s, the word “fall” might start to emerge from the recesses of our memories. Before we know it, the end of 2010 will be nigh.

But there is much music to make before then!

Standing By My Copier

Posted in Library Supplies and Equipment by kschnack on September 15, 2009

Some other folks are apparently trying to get my beloved copier to transfer its affections.  They think I don’t notice how they sidle up and flirtatiously tease it with gifts of glamorous projects and new technical thrills.  Or how they have to tear themselves away from it clearly yearning to return.  That is, if I can get them away from it.  Sometimes they spend hours huddled closely together throughout the week, working as one with great attention to the smallest detail. Because it really is addictive, this copier.  Trust me, I know.

You see, it’s not just ANY copier.  It’s so much more.  And I’m not just talking about the universal tray we customized for music paper, or the double-scanner for duplexing, or the faxing or e-mailing capability.  Nor am I even referring to how we can receive a regular letter-sized pdf file and transform it from our computers to the copier which then produces a beautiful image on 60 lb., 10.5 x 13″ paper.  Sure, all those things are part of what makes this particularly fine specimen so special.  They’re just not the whole picture.

So, I have a confession.  I’ve been holding out on you and haven’t told you everything.  There was a clue in the photo when I first introduced you to the light of my library life, but I didn’t let you in on what it all meant.  And why, despite everything we’ve been through and the temptations to which it regularly succumbs, I’m still hopelessly in love with my copier and standing by it no matter what.

Here it is.  Have another look:

DSO Library Copier

DSO Library Copier

Notice that station next to the copier with a monitor and keyboard with the music up on the screen?  (I’ll let the librarians identify what the excerpt is.)  No, that is not just a regular computer turned sideways.  It’s not an ATM either, although nearly everyone in the orchestra called it that when we first got it.

It’s a unit that is designed to fit with the copier (in this case, Ricoh) that uses EFI print management software in a format developed by IKON called DocSend™.

And I can no longer live without it.

DocSend Unit

DocSend Unit

I know that most of this is old technology to those in other fields, or even those in other parts of the music industry.  And, by now, a number of my colleagues around the world have similar units, or, if they don’t have the separate tower, they are doing the same kind of work at their PC’s.  (We like having the tower because we can do all the scanning and editing at the copier without running back and forth to our PC’s.) In fact, we wouldn’t have understood the potential of this gizmo if we hadn’t attended demonstrations by our brilliant colleague Michel Léonard of the Montreal Symphony at a couple of MOLA conferences a few years ago.  As one who is very experienced in music editing, he was using Adobe Photoshop® long before most of the rest of us had even thought about it to manipulate parts electronically — clean and crop them, fix the notation, add rehearsal systems, make excerpts — instead of manually with scissors, tape, erasers, and Wite-Out®.  Not to be confused with music notation programs like Sibelius and Finale, this type of editing is a different process, targeting a different set of problems that, in my view, is even more essential to what the librarian is doing every day:  preparing the parts for performance that have already been created.

Oh, the things we can do together. Erasing without shavings! Extracting excerpts without so much as picking up a pair of scissors!!  Putting those excerpts in any order at all without having to mock up individual physical sheets that then have to be recopied front-to-back, wasting huge amounts of time and paper!!! Sending everything back to the PC, and in just a few clicks, printing exquisite parts on the music paper.  It’s a thing of beauty.

I know.  You must be thinking that none of this sounds all that amazing these days, what with every type of graphic image manipulation software available to anyone who wants to seek it out and learn to use it.  Are orchestra librarians so in the Dark Ages that we can be thrilled with a simple touch screen, over the moon about Deskew and Undo options?

Well, yes, I guess we are.  For a field that is one of the last to use pencils, erasers, and scissors — and not for teaching school children — it’s pretty exciting stuff.  And it makes me happy, happy.

To think that just yesterday I was talking about the old days.

So I’m standing by my copier.  Yes, I realize we are now supposed to call them printers or scanners or whatever.  But to me, he will always just be Doc, The Copier.  I will share him with the others on an as-needed basis.  But I know he knows who his true love is.  I know he knows you gotta dance with the one that brung ‘ya.

Our favorite library tool